The College of Arts & Sciences’ (CAS) Diversity Committee has started a new mentorship program for graduate students. Called CASConnects, the program aims to create a sense of belonging, support, and mentorship of graduate students from diverse backgrounds, broadly defined.
“The idea behind CASConnects formed after Josh Merced, a graduate student member of the CAS Diversity Committee, shared that there were not many ways for graduate students of color to get support from mentors, especially in departments that may not have faculty from their own racial or ethnic group,” said Dr. Gabriela Livas Stein, chair of the CAS Diversity Committee and an associate professor of psychology.
The committee then brainstormed ways to expand student mentorship networks, and CASConnects was formed. Since then, more than 40 UNC Greensboro faculty and staff have volunteered to serve as mentors by meeting with students to discuss professional development. Topics of support may include, but are not limited to, belonging to a minoritized group.
“Some conversations could be more general, like how to be a productive writer or how to navigate academia,” said Stein. “Or it could be more specific, like balancing family responsibilities with academic pressures or managing microaggressions in the classroom setting. Mostly, mentors are there to listen and support!”
To find a mentor, graduate students can visit https://cas.uncg.edu/diversity/casconnects/ and select the knowledge or characteristics they are looking for in a mentor. The site will then provide a list of mentors who can best support around those issues, whether it’s mental or physical disabilities, women in academia, religious minorities, BIPOC, international or immigration issues, and much more.
Mentorship, Stein emphasizes, could consist of a series of scheduled meetings, or it can simply be one well-timed conversation. She recalls one mentorship conversation of her own that had a profound impact.
“I once had a mentoring conversation with a Mexican-American professor that provided me with hope and optimism about working in academia that I still carry with me today,” she said. “Mentorship is such an important part of our journey as professionals.”
Story by Elizabeth Keri, College of Arts & Sciences
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications